The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit governed by an independent board of directors. Donations to the Highland Rivers Foundation are tax deductible. (Federal tax ID: 81-4628046). Our Director is Kathleen C. Varda, MSW. She can be reached (678) 558-4847 or kathleenvarda@highlandrivers.org.

Kathleen C Varda has broad-based expertise in strategic planning, grant and fund development, and community relationship building. She is known for her ability to create successful outcomes in complex situations, which includes securing more than $100+ million in federal and foundation grants, major gifts and contract awards in the past 18 years. Currently, she is the Vice President of Community Relations and Development at Highland Rivers Behavioral Health as well as serving a dual role as the Foundation Director for the Highland Rivers Foundation.

Highland Rivers is a $75 million organization that provides services to uninsured and underinsured children, adults, veterans, and families with mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disabilities across 13 counties in Northwest Georgia.

Mrs. Varda has led several organizations in the development, implementation, and achievement of their strategic initiatives, and she has worked closely with key leadership to transform the culture and transparency of the organizations. She holds a Master’s of Social Work degree from Georgia State University where she has been invited back on several occasions to teach grant writing and social welfare policy to graduate-level students.

Foundation Leadership

Billy Hayes, Board Chair

CEO, Northside Hospital Cherokee


Oscar Guzman, Treasurer

Executive Director, Cedartown Performing Arts Center 


Tonya Riddick, Secretary

Executive Director, FREEDOM Tax & Financial Services,

Executive Director, Smile Up Charitable Foundation


Harry Pence, Board Member

Raymond James & Associates


Melanie Dallas, CEO

Highland Rivers Foundation


Marla Flynn, CFO

Highland Rivers Foundation


Kathleen Varda, Foundation Director

Highland Rivers Foundation


Sherry McGee, Foundation Relations Officer

Highland Rivers Foundation